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Black Pudding Gaiters

Hiking, travelling, gear

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Sue

Lockdown Continues

In March 2020, we began the Covid-19 lock down. As we got to April, it was clear than things weren’t going to change any time soon.
Back in March, it was a novelty working from home and spending the allowed exercise time discovering new paths a short walk from home. Now, the novelty was wearing thin.
A camping and concert visit to the Lake District was put back a year. A weekend football tournament in Crawley was cancelled. At least I got the money back from Premier Inn without any hassle. Big thanks to them!
We had to postpone the traditional Mother’s Day meal and a family birthday get together.

Annoyingly, for a country with so few bank holidays, most of them occurred during lock down and the weather has been fantastic. I would have loved to have been in the Welsh hills with my tent, instead I was wandering the lanes, paths and bridleways of Wirral.

Some of my routes headed across Brombrorough golf course. Interestingly, on the first few walks, the route across the course was marked with a few small, wooden pointers. Later, large arrows were painted on the grass and tees. I suspect more people were walking and some were getting a bit lost!

This is a footpath. Benty Heath Lane
This is a footpath!

After the golf course, the footpath passes to the side of a crop field with the M53 motorway on the right.
Taking a right on the road at the end of the field brings you out on to Bentey Heath Lane, passing Hargreave House Cottages.
Walking from the golf course, this route is clear but if doing the walk the other way around it’s not so obvious.
From the road you see painted ‘Private!’ signs and the footpath sign have been removed.
The bridge over the motorway has a piece of graffiti saying “f*** the farmer”, I do wonder if it was written by a disgruntled walker!

One of my ‘new’ walks was around Raby. I’ve made this walk available to download but altered it to start and end at Merseyrail train stations. I’ll be doing this walk again post lock down and popping in to the lovely, thatched Wheatsheaf Inn for a drink or two!

Friday 8th May was a bank holiday marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
I used the day as an opportunity for a longer walk.
I had to alter my route as the footpath to the side of Clatterbridge hospital was closed. This meant taking a slightly longer route along roads, luckily they were still very quiet.
The route intended to take is available on ViewRanger. I’ve tweaked it slightly to start and finish at Bromborough Rake train station

June started off in much the same way as the previous months but with the added disappointment of the cancellation of the holiday to Zakopane in Poland. At least most of my money will be refunded, apart from the part I’d booked with LastMinute.com. I certainly won’t be using them again post lockdown and wouldn’t recommend any one else do either!

And now, well, it’s cold and it’s wet and there’s few signs of normality returning any time soon.
I’m looking forward to the time when we can pop to Primark to pick up our “I survived Covid-19” t-shirts….until that time, stay safe out there.

Terra Nova Wild Country Zephyros

I’ve a nice, growing collection of tents, the large Vango, the cheap and cheerful Coleman and the current favourite, the Robens Arch.
Two of these are two person tents weighing in at around 2.3kg.
The Wild Country Zephyros is a smaller, lighter (1.5kg) one person tent (note this is a review for the earlier, model not the 2020 compact version)

Wild Country One Person Zephyros tent

The Zephyros is a cheaper version of the sister company’s Terra Nova Laser. The Terra Nova tent is a lot, lot lighter but also several hundred pounds more expensive (RRP £170 and £450 for the current models in April 2020).

Stuff sack, Wild Country Stuff sack
Back pole and the ventilation. Curtains closed!

Pitching the Zephyros is easy. The fly and inner go up together which is great when pitching in bad weather.
One long Superflex alloy pole runs across the middle of the tent and two smaller poles sit at the top and bottom ends to give structure, stability and help provide ventilation.
It can be put up in around 5 minutes or so.
On the subject of poles. the tent comes with a repair kit which includes a sleeve for fixing a damaged pole….alternatively, it makes a great pea shooter!


Outside, the tent is a nice green colour, nothing too garish! The flysheet has 4000mm hydrostatic head flysheet,it has fully taped seams and a 6000mm groundsheet.
The guy lines are reflective which is a nice touch for when you’re wandering back to the tent at night.

Inside, there is plenty of room. I’m about 5 foot 11 and I can sit up right. There’s not a huge amount of space in the porch area but a 75l rucksack can be tucked in to the side and it’s not too bad for cooking. I’ve also found you can extend the porch by popping the door up with a stick or walking pole to make a basic shelter.
There’s a few other little nooks and crannies for putting boots etc but, unlike many tents, there’s no handy pocket on the inner for leaving say, your mobile phone or head torch etc.

A cute little feature is the ‘curtains’ at either end. Well, OK they are really covering the ventilation but, providing there’s enough air circulating elsewhere, it does help keep things a little darker. These can be opened and closed from inside the tent.

Colour coded poles, reflective guy lines Wild Country
Colour coded poles and reflective guy lines

The bath tub inner is not very deep compared to my other tents but I’ve not noticed that being an issue yet. One slightly strange design feature is the outer door rolls back in to the inside of the tent which can make the inside damp if opening the door after a rainy night.
While we’re discussing negatives, it is a little bit susceptible to condensation, nothing too bad but more than my other tents. I imagine this is to be expected in a smaller tent.

This is a very popular tent, so there’s loads of videos, forums and reviews for this tent.
You can pick up this model for under £100 (April 2020) if you hunt around , and for that price, it’s not a bad bit of kit!

Lockdown!

My annual leave entitlement at work runs April to April which means in March, my entire team battle to claim days to use up their leave.
Being sneaky (some may say selfish!), in December I booked a week off in March before anyone else did.
I planned to buy a 4 in 8 Freedom of North West Rail Rover ticket which can be used for travel towards Chester to the south, Leeds to the east and Dumfries to the north.
Leeds was a definite, I’d not been before and I was keen to see the armouries, perhaps combine with another Yorkshire town.
Carlisle was tempting too. A walk along Hadrian’s wall, sneak in a spot of camping….
…..
…..then came Covid-19.

My football Sunday league games had already been cancelled, my football and fencing training sessions soon followed. My hotel in Crawly cancelled the booking I’d made for April as did the campsite in the Lake District.
Things were slowly getting ready for lock down.
My big plans for the week off were becoming smaller plans.

For the time being at least, walking/hiking was still allowed. One idea was to use the Chester to Manchester line, get off the train at Delamere, walk back to Chester then, take the Merseyrail train back home.

4 in 8 freedom rail rover ticket

The ticket is in two parts.
The bottom part can be read by ticket machines, the top part is for writing in the day and month the ticket is being used (click on the image to expand).

After a pleasant journey on an empty train, I got off at Delamere station.
From the station, it’s a short walk to the visitor centre (with it’s toilets!) and on to the Blakemere Moss lake.

Navigation is easy, follow the signs for the Delamere Way through the forest to the road running (almost) through the middle.

Unfortunately, this route does go along roads for a short while but they aren’t very busy.

I was now following the well signed Baker Way.
Just to the north of Ashton Hayes (which sounds more like a Hollywood actor than a village), I had a decision to make. I could continue on the Baker Way which lead to the south of Chester or I could turn right on to Gongar Lane. This would take me on the Longster Trail towards the north of Chester.
I decided on the Longster Trail.
This was a nice 12 mile walk, passing villages and crossing farmers fields before reaching the outskirts of Chester.
The route is available to download from ViewRanger.
Needless to say, I’ll be trying the other route when I can!

I did get to Leeds as planned, but now all the museums including the armouries were closed. As I sat alone in PieMinister, the annouoncement was made that all pubs and restaurants would close that night.
Total lock-down was imminent.
I made mu way very quickly to the station, I certainly wasn’t going to wait for the last train as more and more were cancelled.

I never managed to use the final day of my 4 day ticket.

I didn’t return to the office after my week off either.
I got a text message off a colleague saying that we would be working from home for the foreseeable future. Luckily I guessed this might happen. I had taken my laptop home and, more importantly, my stash of coffee.

Tree in the morning mist

Working from home wasn’t too bad.
The time I’d normally spend communing. I spent doing the government approved daily walk.
I would walk for a couple of minutes to the local woods then wander around discovering the various paths. For the most part, I was very lucky with the weather.
I’ll certainly miss these early morning strolls through when normality returns.

Eastham country park, Wirral


At the weekends, I’d get up early and head a little further down the road (still only about 5 minutes!) to the larger woods at Eastham Country park.
Leaving early mean I could easily follow the social distancing rules, only seeing the occasional early dog walking in the distance.

We work flexi time in my office, and I’d managed to build up enough hours to take a couple of days off.
When I booked them, I had planned a couple of days in the Welsh hills. When the time came, we were in full on lock down and were only allowed to go on one exercise a day.
The (short) list of permitted exercise included walking but only from where you live. I’m quite lucky, there’s several footpaths and quiet country lanes near my home. I drew up a couple of routes, both in a similar area. One 8 mile circular route from my house, the other about 10.5 miles.
I’ve added both to ViewRanger but tweaked both to start and end at the nearest train station.

Eastham Country Park Wirral

We’re now approaching the end of the third week of lock down.
Needless to say, we’re all missing seeing family and it’s tough missing usual activities…..but there’s quite a few walks and camping trips getting planned!!

Slovenia 2019

All quiet on the blog recently, WordPress has decided not to work on Chrome, it’s a little wobbly on Edge too…
….Anyway, June 2019 (yes it really has taken me that long to complete this post!). Another year, another trip to Slovenia.
This was a rather impromptu and virtually free trip using the money I’d built up via TopCashBack…..and I gained more cashback with my booking!

I set an alarm (and a backup alarm!) for 02.30. Argh!
On the bright side the roads were quiet . 
Sadly, things went downhill at the rather chaotic Manchester airport. A queue had formed just to get upstairs to the check in area! To avoid this, I went into the multi story car park and used the stairs there.
When I arrived at check-in for my TUI flight, there was the usual very, very long queue which seems common with all their flights.

Airside, I filled up my empty plastic flask with water from the fountain (saves few quid!), bought a much needed coffee and an egg & (apparently) bacon baguette for the flight.

Arriving at the gate, I was told one of the toilets on the aircraft was not working. The flight would be delayed while they attempted to fix the problem. I plugged my phone in to charge and waited…..
I was due to fly on the new Boeing 737 Max, however, following a couple of accidents, every aircraft of that type had been grounded. We were now flying on an Olympus Airways Airbus A321. This resulted in some faffing due to the changes to seat configuration once we did get onboard. 
Our Greek crew eventually got us airborne 40 minutes later than scheduled.

A couple of hours later, we arrived in Austria. From here it was a three hour trip in a minibus over the border to Kranjska Gora.

My room in Pension Milka was comfortable and a good size for a single room but the best feature was the view!!

View from balcony Pension Milka Kranjska Gora, Slovenia

After unpacking, I made my way downstairs on to the outside eating area. I was staying half board which included a three course evening meal. There was no choice, you got what you were given, but the quality was phenomenal.
The ‘amuse-bouche’ was a beetroot bread with smoked butter and hummus. All home made. Next came celery, bacon and walnut soup .
Main course was duck with beetroot reduction. A lavender panna cotta with berries rounded off this fantastic meal.

The next morning I woke at around 07:15 to the sound of grass cutting. They start early here! 
I helped myself to a selection of ham, cheese, bread and cereal while a very nice ‘proper’ Americano coffee was prepared for me.

After breakfast, I headed out, up the road to path 7 towards Vrisc. This was a very easy route to follow. Taking a left from the hotel, I followed the road up as far as the footpath to the left.
Although this was a climb, it was fairly gradual with plenty of views and things of interest, such as the Russian Chapel. I arrived there at 10:30, before the tourists descended so had a good look round.

Vrisc pass, Slovenia. Face in rock

My route took my past the ‘face in the cliffs’. Needless to say, there is a story behind this.

On reaching the part of Vrisc where the tourist coaches stop and their passengers get a photo, I continued past the dom (a large mountain hut serving food) to a much quieter peak where there was still some snow on the ground. I passed through the white stuff towards a little grey box containing a book to record my visit (for safety) and a rubber stamp. It would have been nice to mark on my map that I’d arrived but, sadly, the ink had dried up.
It was a beautifully warm and sunny day. This was a great spot to sit a while and take in the views.

View from Vrisc pass, Slovenia

The route back was similar to the route up albeit slightly quicker. The total distance being around 12.5 miles. A GPX file can be downloaded from the Viewranger website    

Italian lakes near Slovenian border

Friday 7th June and I’m the only person at breakfast. I was offered eggs cooked any way I wished to go with my coffee and cereal. 
It was another hot and sunny day. The plan was to take the path/cycle route D2 to the  Fusine lakes across the border in Italy. This was a walk I’ve done a few times but it really is beautiful and well worth a return visit.
I did a figure of eight loop stopping at a quiet spot for a quick drink and to take in the views.
I continued along D2 the far end of the village Fusine in Valromana but there was little reward in extending the walk. I’ve removed this extra part from the GPX file.

Saturday was looking to be another hot sunny day. The car park around the lake Jasna was already busy when left my room at 9am. 
My original plan was to get bus to Mojstrana but I decided to walk. This was perhaps not best idea! It was 26 degrees in relentless sun. On a previous visit, I got as far as the foot of Triglav,  today, I only reached the gallery rock formations.  Still, it was a nice if surprisingly tiring walk.
I returned to Mojstrana for the hourly bus back to Kranjska Gora. I felt quite smug. After a quick look on Alpetour website, I’d got to the stop a few minutes before the bus and had the correct change….I hadn’t spotted that the 16:12 bus didn’t run on Saturday. Could have been worse, the bus stop was closed on some days due to road works.  

 Sunday 9th June
After being the only person at breakfast on the previous mornings, today there was another English lady travelling alone and an Austrian family.
Later in the morning I popped in to the shopping area for some cash. Two cash machines were out of money. I assumed there had been a rush on Friday and Saturday. I had enough money for some drinks so headed to the supermarket. It was closed. Using my limited Slovenian, I’d worked out it should have opened at 8am. It was now 9.20
Giving up on that idea, I grabbed my stuff then went on walk to the Koca v Krnici hut. A nice simple walk following the river through woods. I took the track back making it fairly circular.
I’d returned to Kranjska Gora quite early in afternoon so took D2 to Gozd Martuljek, crossing the river for the walk back.
This walk can be easily split in to two separate shorter walks from Kranjska Gora.
I later discovered that today was Pentecost or Whit Sunday, a national holiday in Slovenia. Explains why everything was shut!

Monday 10th June
The plan today was to do the three borders walk but the dark clouds were gathering in that direction.
I started walking towards where the borders of Slovenia, Italy and Austria meet but took a left a Ratece towards the Planica centre.
Passing the visitor centre and ski jumps, I continued on to walk to the Nadiza waterfall.
I’d walked up the waterfall last year so today I followed one of the paths south just because it was there! I was glad I did! More snow to play in and some fantastic views.
This is a great, easy circular walk from Planica although I removed the extra bit to the south off my GPX file

Once I made my way back to Planica, I took the path beside the hotel and on to the Slanta ski lift. The path had the usual yellow signs pointing to Kranjska Gora and Ratece. Then I hit a sign saying ‘private’.
Was walking across here still possible?
There was nobody around so I carried on but no yellow footpath signs until I got over their land. According to my GPS I was still on the footpath. Had it been removed?
My route, legal or otherwise, came out near the bizarre labyrinth, from here it is an easy walk on D2 back. 

Tuesday 11th June 
Today I was going to try a new route, head towards the Martuljek waterfall. then take the path towards Spik and the bivouac
The further I went along the path, the more difficult the terrain. Not hugely difficult but rain was predicted, the clouds were getting darker and I was rapidly loosing confidence in my Scapra approach shoes.  It was enough for me to think to myself, “I’ve seen nobody since leaving D2 and the phone signal has disappearing. As much as I want to stay in Slovenia, I didn’t want to prolong my stay by being stuck up a mountain after a slip.”
There were a lot more contours on the map ahead and, looking at the map, there would not be much more in the way of views although seeing the bivouac would have been fun. 

I followed the path back down to a track which led me down to D2 opposite the memorial for cyclist Jure Robic.  From here, I followed D2 to Gozd Martuljek taking the road through the village and up past a waterfall.
Taking a left at Srednji Vrh, the route continues through pastures, woodland and past a house selling fresh yogurt.
There were some great views over to Kranjska Gora but the weather was turning so I cut the walk a shorter and headed back to the hotel the rain became very heavy.
The Pension Milka kitchen was closed today at the hotel so I headed to Kotnik’s for a takeaway pizza. I got the most expensive pizza on the menu (€10 plus 50c for box). Truffle; Mozzarella, sweet cream, truffle, deer prosciutto, Karst prosciutto, Parmesan. Fantastic!!
I made my way very quickly in the torrential rain to my balcony where I sat with my pizza and a Slovenian IPA beer watching the storms in the valleys.

A 5.30 pick up for the airport in the morning so an early night this evening. A total of 214.67km or 133.4 miles to add to the total this year.

Coleman Cobra 2 versus Robens Arch 2

Coleman Cobra 2 tent

I picked up the Coleman Cobra 2 cheaply on an Amazon Black Friday deal.
It ticked all the boxes; small enough to carry, not too heavy (2.3kg) and, being a two person tent, there should be a decent amount of room for one lanky person and their kit.

I’d taken it out on a number of trips, all in good weather…until one trip to North Wales.
I woke up, made a coffee and realised the flaws in the Cobra when the rain started…..
…..there was no porch and the lack of head room made it rather uncomfortable.

I sat in the main body of the tent to drink my coffee, curled up due to the limited head room in a way a that would have put many contortionist to shame.
I decided that breakfast would be best cooked in the small park about a mile down the road. I was dressed in waterproofs but, at least I could sit upright.

As good as the Coleman is, I needed something about the same weight but with some headroom and a little bit of shelter for eating and cooking (with plenty of ventilation, cooking inside a tent isn’t recommended!!!)
I spent a while browsing numerous different tents. I had a good idea of what I wanted and got the shortlist down to two….well three but one didn’t seem to be in stock anywhere.

Robens Arch 2 tent pitched

I purchased the Robens Arch 2 at a sale price of £110.
Robens is a Danish brand you don’t see much of in England, therefore, there were very few reviews online.
I crossed my fingers!
My one concern was how pink it looked on the photos. Perhaps keep the Coleman for more discrete camping!

The tent arrived the following evening. I didn’t have too much time, so I quickly put it up in the back garden to check all the bits where were I expected them to be. I was relived to see the tent was more a muddy brownish-red colour rather than the girly pink the website suggested.

Pitching instructions are provided in the tent’s stuff sack, they are also available on the Robens website which has some useful videos, however, it is an easy tent to put up.

Attaching Robens tent poles

First, put the two colour coded alloy poles through the corresponding sleeve, making sure the flat coloured end goes in first. A rather unusual feature of this Robens tent is that one end is sealed. Push the pole as far as it goes in to the webbing (it may need some wiggling!). The other end goes in to the eyelet on the opposite side of the tent.
Pull the tent into shape then peg out.
Simple.

So, in the battle of Coleman versus Robens, both are equally simple to pitch.
Coleman 1 – Robens 1

For it’s first trip out, I took the Robens to Hebden Bridge Camping which is part of the New Delight Inn.
I was flying a Vulcan Bomber simulator in Stacksteads, about 30 minutes drive away. This was fantastic experience and very different from anything I’ve ever flown before. We took off from RAF Finningley (now Doncaster Sheffield airport) and headed up the coast. I did a few barrel rolls over Blackpool then continued for a low level (500m) pass over Lake Windermere.
Great fun!

As my ‘flight’ took off at 10am, I had plenty of time to get the tent sorted and take a decent walk afterwards. On checking in, I was handed a wooden spoon to put in to the ground next to my tent. A novel way of proving that I had paid!
The camping area is a slightly sloping, fairly small field to the side of the pub car park. There’s two good separate ‘bathrooms’ in a portakabin, both containing a shower which is free to use.

Once again, the tent went up quickly and easily. A nice little feature in the Robens is a pocket to stuff the internal door into when opened fully, this makes it a bit easier to access the porch area.
I changed out of my ‘flying clothes’ and into my walking gear. I was grateful of the extra headroom the Robens tent offered. I can easily sit up at any part of the tent. A big extra point for the Robens.

Suitably attired, I went on a pleasant circular ish walk to Hebden Bridge. The route started at the path almost opposite the campsite then returned on the Caderdale Way which has great views over the village and beyond. The route is available to download as a GPX file from the ViewRanger website.

View over to Hebden Bridge

Back at the campsite, I had dinner at the New Delight Inn. A portion of scampi for starters followed by bacon cheese burger. All good tasty pub food.

As it was a nice evening, after dinner, I followed the bridleway back up to Hebden Bridge for a night cap at Drink?. I was joined on the walk back by several bats. I watched them from the porch for a while before settling down for the night.

Robens tent in Hebden Bridge Camping

First, I had to hook my lantern up.
The Coleman tent has a handy plastic hook on the roof. The Robens just has a loop made of material.
I managed to hook the lantern’s USB charger part through then back on itself which did the trick.
A slight ‘win’ for the Coleman there.
One plus for the Robens is it has two loops ….so why did I hang the lantern over my feet rather than within easy reach?!

Like the Coleman, the Robens has two mesh storage pockets. I put my mobile phone and portable charger in one and my head torch in the other. I plonked myself in the middle of the tent and promptly fell asleep…..

…..I woke up quite late on Sunday morning. The others on the site were busy preparing breakfast or even packing up by the time I surfaced. I think the lie in was partly down to the how much darker it is inside the Robens.
Another point for the Robens there!

After the usual breakfast of coffee and porridge cooked on the Jetboil, I started to put my camping kit away. The Robens is a very easy tent to take down, getting it back in it’s stuff sack, however, resulted in much swearing and cursing. Trying to put it away in rain is almost impossible. Another stuff sack will be used in future – perhaps the wide opening bag the Coleman is kept in.
A definite point for the Coleman and it’s taco stuff sack.

Ventilation and bathtub floor in Robens.

The Robens was fantastic in the horrible conditions during a camp near Castleton.
Both tents have a hydrostatic head of 3000 and taped seams. Both tents pitch the inner and fly together which saves soggy inners if pitching in the rain. Both also have a good deep bathtub inner which gives protection from any wet weather.
The Coleman kept me dry over night on a rainy trip to Wales but it was virtually impossible to keep dry and cook breakfast due to the lack of headroom.
Point to the Robens.

The two tents also have good ventilation so no problems with condensation, however, the Robens does have more vents which are easier to open and close so just wins this test.

If you’re counting, I make it 4.5 points to the Robens and 2.5 for the Coleman.
That’s not to say the Coleman is a particularly bad tent especially as it can be picked up at such a good price.
The Coleman is currently (August 2019) around £85 but can be found for as little as £70.
The Robens is more expensive at about £120.
I like the extra headroom and porch the Robens offers and for that reason it’s now my go to two person tent, but, both are very good tents.
How much is the extra height and porch space worth to you?

Half Man Half Biscuit – Castleton

As a Tranmere supporter, brought up on the Holmlands Estate, Birkenhead (about two minutes walk from Prestbury Ave) , who went to the same primary and secondary schools as Nigel Blackwell, it was impossible not to become a fan of Half Man Half Biscuit.
I’d followed them around the country, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Hull…… but when I spotted a gig in a cave I just had to get a ticket.

I bought the ticket in February for Devil’s Arse cave in Castleton. A month later I’d booked a spot at a campsite a few miles down the road.
The concert was in mid August.
Splendid.
Pitch up at midday, walk to nearby Ladybower reservoir, cook dinner then a nice evening stroll to the venue….
…..well, that was the plan!

There had been a rain warning in place for a few days.
I left my house at 10am for what should be about a 90 minute journey. I hit the first tailback on the M56, then another. Even on the clear bits of motorway it was not advisable to go too fast. The rain was heavy and the surface extremely damp.
It took around three hours to reach Swallowholme Campsite in Bamford. I was shown to my allocated spot on a patch of grass reserved for only for tents. I put on my waterproofs and set up ‘home’
I haven’t been too impressed with my Scarpa approach shoes, I’ve little confidence in the grip and, despite getting re-waterproofed recently, my feet were already soaked by the time I’d pitched my tent.
I sat in the doorway and made myself a coffee. I felt I’d earned it!

With my right foot squelching every time I took I step, I did not fancying too much of a walk so I took a look around Bamford. There wasn’t much to see to be honest. I went on to Hathersage.
I’m not a fan of shopping but there are a couple of good outdoor shops in the village and it got me out of the continuing monsoon.

Back at the tent, I sat in the porch area and heated up my meatballs and pasta and downed a very nice can of Thornbridge beer I’d purchased at Hathersage Spar.
At around 6pm, I headed back out in to the torrential rain for the 80 minute walk to Devil’s Arse cave. I did ask myself why I didn’t take the car.

Devils arse cave, Castleton Derbyshire

Devil’s Arse has to be one of the most impressive concert venues I’ve been to as well as being the best named!
I’d arrived in good time so I bought a drink at a stall near the entrance.
As I drunk my coffee, I said ‘hello’ to bassist Neil who was sporting a nice Appleton cricket shirt (there’s a story behind that!).

The audience area was split in to three tiers.
I took my place on a raised area to the right of the stage, leaning on the safety barrier between my level and the lower level on the left.
The support was JD Meatyard.
Not really my thing but a number of the audience seemed to enjoy his set.

At around 8pm, Half Man Half Biscuit came on stage and started their show with “She’s in Broadstairs”
I seem to remember the other songs were as follows:

  • Restless Legs
  • Renfield’s Afoot. A woman standing near me had danced her way through the previous two songs and continued through this one. A strange dance reminiscent of the of “Tales of the Unexpected” opening credits.
  • Lilac Harry Quinn
  • Harsh times in Umberstone Covert
  • Look Dad No Tunes (the theremin part really warmed the crowd up)
  • Ode To Joyce
  • What Made Colombia Famous
  • Paintball’s Coming Home With the extra verses which get added at every gig – “They say It Is What It Is and Gin O’Clock” “You OK, hun?” “They’ve got an ice cream maker and a George Foreman grill” 
  • Left Lyrics in the Practice Room
  • God Gave Us Life (“God gave us tailbacks on the M56, and God gave us tailbacks on the M60”. Nigel must have taken the same route I did)
  • Terminus (I think my favourite song at the moment)
  • Joy Division Oven Gloves
  • Running Order Squabble Fest
  • Dukla Prague Away Kit
  • Worried Man Blues
  • We Built This Village with the variation of “cavers out moshing”
  • David Wainwright’s Feet (a song originally on a kids album which is ridiculously catchy)
  • Born To Lose (a cover and totally lost on me)
  • The Unfortunate Gwatkin
  • Trumpton Riots
  • National Sh**e Day
  • Light at the End of the Tunnel
  • Time Flies By

    Then the encores
  • Fred Titmus
  • Everything’s AOR Quite possibly my favourite live song
  • Sounds of the Suburbs (another cover)
  • Every Time a Bell Rings. The crowd had been shouting for this all night.

A fantastic gig. The band sounded great.
Nigel played guitar on a few songs but for most of the time he looked like a slightly less frantic Bruce Dickinson, up on the monitors and climbing the safety rails.
As usual, he spent time chatting with the crowd but his attempt at jokes are probably not worth repeating! We did, however, learn that the river running through the cave was the Noe.

The show finished at around 10pm. The rain was still falling but was now less heavy. This was the first time I’d ever taken a head torch to a concert but was very glad of it as I walked the dark roads back to the campsite.

Back at the tent, everything was wet. I was glad to get tucked in to my sleeping bag, warm and dry. Unfortunately, the wind had got up, gusting around 35mph. I had positioned my tent in to the wind and had no doubt it was capable of withstanding wind a lot stronger. It was my pegging out I worried out about!

I woke at 6am after a reasonable sleep, all pegs still in place!
I set the Jetboil up on a picnic table, made a coffee and porridge.
I finished just as the rain started again. Being wet and a little muddy, the tent really didn’t want to go back in to it’s stuff sack. As I was in the car, I flung it and the rest of my muddy kit in the boot then headed to Castleton.
Just outside the village, I parked on the side of the road. Two of the pay and display machines were covered over, the third wouldn’t take my money. Bonus – free parking!
My feet squelshed as I put my Scarpas back on. I headed towards the concert venue and followed the signs to Pervil Castle.

Wild camping near Devils Arse Cave Half Man Half Biscuit concert

I spotted a tent near the entrance to the cave. I suspect someone may have been doing some wild camping after the concert!
I followed the Cave Dale path up. I say path, there was now a river flowing down the rocky route.
I continued along the Limestone Way before taking a right and following the path back to the car.
This was only around three and a half miles in length and I had planned two loops, the second taking me up Mam Tor. As I finished the first loop, the clouds got darker. It was time to bale out and perhaps plan another camping trip in the future when it wasn’t so damn wet!

Views down valley Castleton Derbyshire

As I pulled off in the car, the rain became torrential yet again but, despite the weather, a fantastic weekend and one of the best concerts I’ve been to in a long time…..now to see when the next gig is…..

Take a look at the Half Man Half Biscuit Lyric Project for a lot more info, reviews and photos for this concert (and others!)

Testing the Coleman Cobra 2 at Hulme End

I’ve  used a one person Coleman Kraz tent  in the past. A decent, cheap starter tent. I picked up another Coleman, the 2 man Cobra, for £70 on an Amazon Black Friday deal.

Before purchasing, I took some time to read reviews across a number of websites. It seemed a very good price for a decent tent.

Coleman tent in bag

It arrived in it’s   waterproof stuff sack.
At 48 x 18 x 15 cm, it’s small enough to fit easily into my rucksack. 
The pitching instructions are sewn in to the carry sack so no chance of them getting lost although, to be honest, it’s simple enough to pitch without much help.

Coleman Cobra tent instructions.

Whilst not the lightest tent  at  a little over 2kg, I was happy with it’s weight considering the price paid and the amount of room. 
Being  a  two person tent, it  gives a little extra space for one person. I certainly wouldn’t want to try and put two adults in it!

There is just the one door on the  left hand side, another reason not to put someone else in the tent, the person on the ‘wrong’ side would have a bit of a scramble to get out.

Being a wedged tunnel design, the  Cobra has two good size storage areas away from the inner tent.
I keep my 80l rucksack and all my kit on top of a drybag (to keep the kit off the grass) in the non-door side. Everything is out the way and remains perfectly dry.

My first attempt of pitching was done in the back garden. It was very simple.  Peg out out the back, push the colour coded poles through the corresponding coloured mesh sleeves, put the poles in to the flysheet eyelets, clip the poles to the flysheet, bring the tent forward, then finally finish pegging.
First pitching took under 10 minutes. I was happy with that!

I do like the mesh pole sleeves, much easier to use than the equivalent on my Vango
The inner and flysheet are attached so go up as one.  I much prefer this over inner first,  especially in bad weather.

Putting the Cobra away was simple. Simply put the poles and pegs in to their respective bags and roll the tent around them.
The stuff sack has a taco style wide opening, making getting the tent in very easy. The compression straps to shrink the size down.

Coleman Cobra 2 tent in Hulme End campsite

The tent’s first trip out  was to the Hulme End Campsite in the Peak District. A basic site with a couple of toilets and a  washing up sink. No showers or reception area, simply pay the owner £5 when he turns up in his 4×4 (at around 4pm when I was there).
It was the middle of  September. The kids were back in school and so there was plenty of space in the large field. I pitched on the right hand edge near the far end.
Once again, the tent went up easily.

After firing up the Jetboil for a quick coffee, I headed out for a walk around the local villages, passing through Warslow and Butterton. This route was mostly along roads but they were very quiet and it was a nice way to see the local area. A GPX file of the route is available on Viewranger.

Colman Cobra 2 tent at night

I had dinner at the Manifold Inn, located near the entrance of the campsite site. I managed to get the last table, it’s well worth booking if planning on eating here!
I started with a plate of hams, olives and a big slice of ciabatta bread.
Main course was pie, chips and veg. I certainly didn’t leave hungry!!

Stuffed to the gills, I went back to the tent. I attached my  phone to a power bank, placed it in one of the Cobra’s  mesh pockets and settled down for the night.
It was surprisingly dark in the tent and the site was lovely and peaceful.  I snugged down in my sleeping bag and a very good sleep soon followed.

Inside Coleman Cobra 2 tent at night

I woke to discover it had rained quite heavily over night but no problem for the Cobra with it’s 3000mm hydrostatic head flysheet and  5000mm groundsheet.  
The ventilated  mesh inner tent did a good job of keeping the mini beasts and condensation at bay.  One minor quibble is the headroom. I’m about 5 foot 11 (1.8m) and I wasn’t able to sit up properly but try find a 1 or 2 man tent with decent headroom! The Cobra is 77cm at his highest point.

Despite having my Jetboil and some porridge with me, breakfast was taken in the Manifold, I went slightly off piste and went for a large cafetiere of coffee and a black pudding toastie.

Back at camp, I wiped down the rain off the outside of the tent, removed the poles and pegs and lay it on the ground.  After putting the peg and pole bags in the middle of the flattened tent, I folded the sides in to the middle and rolled it all up. Everything went in to the stuff sack fairly neatly.

Everything got chucked in the back of the car and I drove to the Hulme End pay and display car park just around the corner. In retrospect, I think I could have left the car at the campsite. Oh well….
I’d planned a 6 mile circular walk from the car park (which is available as a GPX file).
The route started on the Manifold Way, a tarmac path and cycle route.
I left this path and followed the road south to the caves at Wetton.
After a quick comfort break, I crossed the river and walked north.
There were two options, follow the Manifold Trail back to the car park or take a right and follow the water at the base of Wetton hill. I chose the latter.
The last part of the walk was along quiet roads, leading back to the car park and The Tea Junction for a well deserved coffee!

View from Manifold Way

Camping, but not as we know it

As a kid, the family spent many nights under canvas until one morning we woke to find a large portion of the tent getting blown down the camping field. We chased it down  but the bright orange tent had to be dumped in to the nearest skip.
Rather than replace the tent, our UK trips were spent in static caravans.
In the evenings, Mum would prepare dinner, Dad would have the map out, planning the next hike and I would head out on adventures around the site with my brother. Climbing trees and wading through streams. Happy days!

It’s been many years since I’d last slept in a caravan but, for a a few days in August, I’d be spending a few days with the family in Lakeland Haven Leisure Park.
A few days before the trip I read the reviews on TripAdvisor. Oh dear, it didn’t look good! I didn’t build my hopes up.

The journey down there was interesting.
Being a family holiday which included three kids aged 5 and under, there was a lot of stuff to take. My little Abarth 124 wasn’t big enough so for the four days I drove Mum’s 2004 Renault Clio. That was a shock to the system, but on the bright side, I wasn’t going to be getting a speeding ticket!

20180817_160540On check in, it was nice to see Haven had listened to my brothers request for caravans close to each other. The kids loved running along the grass between the two.
Both caravans were spotlessly clean and surprisingly comfortable.
On the first night we stayed in the caravan and cooked  the food we’d brought with us. It was raining quite heavily so the night was spent curled up on the sofa watching Disney Dvds and playing cards.

After a decent night sleep, I rustled up some breakfast then the family went their separate ways.  While the others visited the miniature village down the road, I took the footpath just outside the Haven main entrance.20180818_121147
I walked along the coastal path to the West,  along the sheep filled marshes until I reached Cowpren Point. Here, the route headed North, eventually coming out on to a road at Sand Gate.  A track, just off the road to the left,  lead to the village of Cark where The Engine Inn provided a good refreshment stop!

Fully refreshed I headed West out of the village towards Cassen Wood.
I passed a “residents only” sign but decided that I was a resident for a few days so continued until I hit another sign stating “No access to Holker Park“. My OS map showed paths and the gate was  unlocked so I continued to the next gate, beyond which several dear were grazing.
After Googling the hall I discovered entry to the park and gardens was £8.50, which explains this second gate had been padlocked!
I wandered back the same way to Cark and took the B5278, Station Road, out of town and towards the entrance Holker Hall. I found a footpath to the right, just after the Hall gates.
My walk became a circular loop as I took the next path on the right back to Cark.
From the village it was  a straight route South, through the village of Flookburgh to the caravan.
Not quite the route I was planning but a decent 8 mile walk. The route without the dead-end is available to download as GPX.
20180818_143838

We headed back out up the road to Flookburgh in the evening. There is just the one road in/out of the holiday park and at the Flookburgh end is the Hope and Anchor, a large Robinsons pub serving food.
If you don’t want burger, the choice is limited to what  is on the special’s board.  Luckily I did fancy a burger, more precisely a Black and Blue Burger, a beef burger topped with blue cheese and black pudding. The black pud was slightly mushy  but not bad at all!

I woke to light rain the next morning.
The kids were spending the some time in the pool so I headed out for another walk, this time I would be heading East towards Grange over Sands.
I took the road out from the camp, taking a right down the road opposite the Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding shop. Apart from crossing a field to cut a corner near Allithwaite, the route mostly followed quiet country roads until I reached the coastal path in to Grange over Sands.
The rain was off and on. It started again just at the time I purchased a coffee from a small stall and sat drinking outside.  To the left of me sat a family consuming pop, coffee and chocolate bars, to the right a young couple who were making their way through to large plates of beans on toast. In true English style, we all sat in the drizzle watching the world go by as if we were on a sunny terrace in Sicily.

To be honest, Grange-over-Sands isn’t hugely exciting on a damp August afternoon.  I did a quick loop at the end of town through some woods and past a garden I can see no mention of online!  After a stop at The Commodore Inn, I took a road to the North of the town back towards Allithwaite. From there, I retraced my steps back to the caravan park. I didn’t realise at the time, but I’d soon be back at this village.

The rest of the family were eating at the onsite bar/restaurant. I’d read bad reviews and wasn’t over keen on taking a meal there, also, I was back from my walk quite late on in the afternoon, they were already eating when I arrived to pick up the key.
Their meals ranged from ‘Okay’ to inedible, it seemed I’d made the right decision to eat elsewhere.
After a clean up and change of clothes, I once again, headed up the road to Cark to the furthest pub, the Rose and Crown, it was packed.
A few minutes down the road, I popped my head in to the Engine Inn, they’d stopped serving walk ins. Seems a bit daft only serving people who had pre-booked given how many free tables there were.
Back down to the Hope and Anchor, they stopped serving at 6, although the choice would have been either Sunday roast or another burger.
A quick look on Google revealed the Pheasant Inn in Allithwaite served food until 9, and I’m so glad I went there!
Sitting in the adult only conservator, my starter came in a brown bag, I unwrapped it to reveal a lovely black pudding.
Main was a very nice slab of pork belly with crackling.
8.2 mile round trip for food, I felt I’d earned this, especially after the 12 miles earlier in the day!
Happily fed and watered, I put on my head torch and wandered down the country lanes with bats zipping round me.

Back in the caravan, the others had settled down for the evening. I too climbed in to bed and got comfy under my duvet.
Not my usual camping but no complaints!

Feeling young in Madeira

Monday 25th March 2019
Mum had been dropping some not so subtle hints about how little she’s used her passport. I delved around online to find somewhere we could both go and drew up a short list of places to go.
Mum quickly decided on Funchal in Madeira and we settled on a well priced all-inclusive suites hotel.

Packing was easy. Four nights somewhere warm meant we were travelling light, very light. Despite having 44kg of luggage allowance, we got everything in to one rucksack weighing under 10kg.

Boarding the flight, I noticed I was quite possibly the youngest passenger on the Jet2 737-800 out of Manchester. I suspected there wouldn’t be much in the way of rowdy behaviour on this flight!

Jet2 737 over Madeira  Funchal airport

Our first attempt to land was aborted due to the wind. As we circled a while, waiting for ATC to report that the wind had dropped, I pondered where our divert would take us but, luckily, however, it was second time lucky.
I had a slight worry when bag didn’t appear, however, rather than being on the carousel, it was in a separate oversized luggage area. This rucksack hunt did mean we were the last two to board the minibus to the resort.

The Girassol hotel was better than we hoped. A big bed room with two single beds, a large separate living area and good sized balcony.

Despite the earlier wind, the weather was nice so we headed out for a stroll to get our bearings. Passing the the Lido we reached Cais do Carvão, (coal wharf) the area were a pier once stood.

Back at the hotel we grabbed a couple more drinks (Mum tasting her first strawberry daiquiri!) before heading down for dinner. The dinning room is a large space with the self service buffet in the centre. I started with the squid salad before a ‘pick and mix’ main course of scabbard fish in banana and passion fruit butter, veal flame grilled tuna steak and pork in a white wine

Tuesday 26th March

Views from hill top fort Funchal.

After breakfast we took a left out of the hotel, following the coast to the Santa Catarina park. From there we headed up hill to the Fortaleza de São João Baptista do Pico, a hilltop castle overlooking the town. This was a bit of a trek especially as it was pleasantly sunny and warm.
Entrance in to the fort was free, the views were great and, being so early in the year, we had the place to ourselves.

We wandered back down hill through the town centre, stopping for a beer flight at the Beerhouse brewery . Lovely drinks, lovely views.
This walking route available for download on ViewRanger.

Levada water channel in Funchal

Later in the afternoon, Mum went to the hotel’s outside pools for a swim. I’m no swimmer, so took a wander and found my first levada. These are channels bringing water from the north of the island to the drier south.
I took the narrow path alongside the water to a residential area. There wasn’t much space when other people walked past in the opposite direction!
My route back to the hotel took me past Estádio do Marítimo, Satdium of the sea, home of Marítimo football club .

Wednesday 27th March
Picked up our packed lunch from the hotel reception.
Blimey! We wouldn’t go hungry! Four cheese and ham sandwiches, fruit, tomato eggs, mango juice and two bottles of water each.

This morning, we walked along the shore to the cable car station. We purchased the combined return ticket and entrance to the botanical gardens for €32 then joined the queue. I can imagine these queues can get very long in the summer months.
In retrospect maybe the first garden in Monte may have been better. The botanical garden was decent but, in my mind, this package was overpriced.

Botanical gardens Funchal

If I took the trip again on my own, I would probably take the path down which followed alongside the the cable car took route to the gardens. Looking from the cable car window, it looked a pleasant albeit steep route.

Back at the hotel I grabbed on of the all inclusive coffees from the poolside bar. Unfortunately, the machine coffee is so bad I so took a couple of sachets from breakfast! (sadly only decaf)

Thursday 28th March
This morning, we followed the coast past the lido to the the promenade. I even managed a little scramble over the rocks (-;
We went as far as we thought interesting but decided against walking down the steep slope to the beach.
We followed pretty much the same route back, cutting up inland slightly to pop to the supermarket.

Coastline Funchal

After another game of table tennis, I went for another stroll along the coast towards and beyond the cable car weaving between the residential areas. It was here, at the furthest point from the hotel, it decided to rain!

At dinner time, we had Portuguese theme night…this included a rather bland piri piri chicken and black pudding….which I managed to consume for every course!

Funchal by night

After consuming all of the black pudding (chef is going to be very surprised by it’s popularity!), we took an evening stroll towards the CR7 museum.

Friday 29th March
The last day.
We were leaving for the airport at 11.45 which gave us time to have breakfast h quick stroll then another table tennis game.

Jet2 737 800 Funchal airport

It rained on the drive to the airport and continued while we were at the airport. That didn’t stop me going on the balcony to watch the planes. There are two outside areas, one before security and another airside.
I love outside space at airports!

So, what are my thoughts on Funchal?
It’s a pleasant enough place but three of four days is enough time to spend here. Maybe a trip out to the less populated areas and countryside may have been nice.
The people are as nice as the weather and everyone speaks very good English.
The hotel food was very ‘safe’ (read, rather bland)
I described it to someone has Eastbourne with cacti and I can see why it appeals to people but, I was already planning my next trip to the hills while sitting in the airport!

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